Engine companies extinguish the fires, but truck companies determine how the fires will be extinguished.

It takes a coordinated effort between the engine and truck companies to produce a safe, timely, and successful operation at a working structure fire. At these operations, with the need for timely truck work and the possibility that an aerial ladder or ladder tower may be required, spotting the truck company should be a primary concern. However, when observing many routine fireground operations, it seems the truck often is

  • an afterthought instead of an initial consideration;
  • driven to the incident, parked down the street, and used as a “tool wagon”;
  • being saved for an upcoming parade;
  • an apparatus that arrives at the incident after the prime spots have been taken by several engine companies;
  • an “urban exposure tool”;
  • capable of extending an aerial device more than 1 (K) feet in the horizontal position and lifting 500 to 1,000 pounds, yet is incapable of maneuvering into proper position due to its size; and
  • an apparatus with a 100-foot aerial that has been forced to spot 104 feet from a fivestory building with a fire on the fifth floor.


Remember these nine basic principles of multicompany operations that affect the proper placement of truck apparatus.

  1. Effective fireground operations center around one incident commander whose goal is to achieve maximum effectiveness from all resources working together. (The first fire officer on the scene is the individual who begins to develop an initial plan and direction for an incident. Therefore, the first-in officer is the incident commander, whether the officer announces or acknowledges that fact.)
  2. The success of an operation depends on effective fireground communication. Communications provide the connection between the incident commander, on-scene personnel, and responding resources. The 1C must develop a plan and communicate that plan; fireground strategy is not top-secret. classified information. Specific communications from the 1C should identify himself as the incident commander and provide specific tactical instructions for on-scene and responding resources. This will eliminate fireground freelancing and set the stage for smooth extended multicompany operations. Remember, of course, that safe, effective operations hinge on horizontal as well as vertical communications.
  3. Apparatus placement is dependent on the basic initial strategy developed by the incident commander. Initial actions (or lack of them) are the sole responsibility of the first-in officer.
  4. Efficient apparatus placement requires specific instructions as early as possible from the incident commander. Let’s analyze two different initial size-up reports for the same incident that illustrate the point:
  5. Size-up #l. Engine I responds to a call for a fire in an apartment building. On arrival, the officer directs the driver to stop in front of the building and radios the following: “Dispatch from Engine 1, we are on-scene at 320 Grant Avenue with smoke showing from an apartment on the fourth floor of a four-story apartment building. Engine I is taking an attack line to the fourth floor.”

    In this scenario, the first-in officer has enhanced the possibility of the next-arriving engine company also spotting in front of the structure. This, in combination with normal street congestion, might prevent the first-in truck company from using an aerial for quick access to the fourth floor and roof.

    Size-up #2. Engine 1 arrive’~ and spots past the fire building. “Dis patch From Engine I, we are on-scene at 320 Grant Avenue with smoke showing from an apartment on the fourth floor of a four-story apartment building. Engine I will be com mand and is taking an attack line to the fourth floor. Additionally, I want the next-in engine company to provide an additional line on the fourth floor and the first-in truck com pany to ladder the roof in the front of the building and check for extension into the attic.”

    The first-in officer has communicated

  • that Engine 1 is in command of this incident;
  • specific directions for the second-in engine company; and
  • specific directions for the first-in truck company.

Additionally, by providing directions for the truck, the officer sent a message to other responding apparatus that unless they have an aerial they should not spot in front of the building. This approach ensures the correct spot will be available for a truck when it arrives.

  • The placement of initial companies will begin to form the plan for fire suppression companies. The proper placement of apparatus will provide the opportunity for the companies to use their capabilities in the most effective manner. Normally, if the placement of initial companies (usually engine companies) is correct, placement of other apparatus (truck companies) also will be correct. If the placement for the first-alarm assignment at an incident is not correct, it is impossible to call a “time out.” regroup, and start over.
  • The placement of engine companies normally offers more flexibility than the placement of truck companies. It is possible to pull another length of hose but impossible to stretch a ladder.
  • Responding companies (particularly the first two companies) should not approach an incident from the same direction for the following reasons:
    • companies responding from opposite (or different) directions (collectively) will see more sides of the building;
    • companies responding from opposite directions can quickly develop primary and alternate water sources;
    • companies responding from opposite directions will not drive over a supply line in the street; and. most germane to the discussion of truck placement,
    • companies responding from opposite directions easily can park in line, leaving more of the street open for other apparatus.
  • Apparatus arriving after the initial company should stay back in an uncommitted position unless a specific task has been assigned. These unassigned companies should stage at least one block away from the incident. Adherence to this principle will minimize incident congestion and maximize scene access and spotting opportunities for additional companies, particularly truck companies.
  • If a working fire is in progress, the assignment of specific tasks by the incident commander will dictate apparatus placement. If a specific task has not been delegated, responding companies should ask the incident commander for an assignment prior to arriving on scene. (For example, “Engine I from Engine 2, we arc several blocks away, how can we help you?”) At large incidents, staging areas commonly are used to park apparatus until assignments are delegated. Additional companies (other than the initial company) should not drive into an incident and look for something to do without specific instructions.

    When nothing is showing as initial companies approach an incident, the first company on the scene should spot for possible attack operations and conduct an investigation; additional companies should wait at the nearest intersection for further instructions. This will enhance room in front of the incident, create the ability to bring a source of water to an incident (if necessary), and allow uncommitted companies to quickly access appropriate portions of the building.

    Remember, strategic and tactical options are minimized if fireground congestion eliminates or modifies proper apparatus placement.

  • A chief officer normally does not belong directly in front of an incident. Although the incident commander should be able to view an incident to develop and coordinate an effective attack for a problem that is constantly changing, chief officers do not carry hose, water, ladders, or directly extinguish fires! A chief officer serving as incident commander should select a location that offers the best view of an incident but allows apparatus to use their capabilities.

    Assuming a responding truck company can spot effectively at an incident, placement normally is dictated by the following factors.

    Incident priorities. Do immediate or potential incident priorities require that the initial truck be used to effect rescues from upper floors, as an elevated master stream appliance, to provide access to the upper floors or the roof of a multistory building, to operate as an initial engine company, or simply to be used as a resource for tools and equipment? The responsibility for this decision falls with the first-arriving officer, who must ensure that resources can be used most effectively.

    Function. The lunctional capability of on-scene apparatus must be considered in developing strategy and for proper placement if necessary.

    • Engine company (“triple combination”—hose, water, pump) first on scene, nothing showing: Spot for possible future operations while conducting an investigation. Fire showing: Spot for effective fire extinguishment, but leave appropriate room for a company with an aerial, if necessary.
    • Truck company (aerial ladder or platform, full complement of ground ladders, tools, and equipment) first on scene, nothing showing: If an aerial will not be necessary, spot the truck away from the building to allow the first-arriving engine to spot for hoseline stretches. Fire showing: If an aerial is necessary, spot for appropriate aerial use—“appropriate” meaning: “The address of the building belongs to the truck company.”
    • Quad (aerial, pump, water, and hose) or quint (aerial, pump, water, hose, and full complement of ground ladders) first on scene: While placement of a single-purpose apparatus (engine or truck) is relatively uncomplicated, placement of a first-in quad
    • or quint apparatus can be challenging. First, each can he used as an engine or a truck compan~ cc~nd, the ofticer of a quad or a quint normally must select either the engine or the truck funcuon clue to cOmmon slatting levels of’ three or tour personnelonly one or the other can he accomplished initial/v. The problem is complicated fur ther because in most cases, it’ given a cho~e. most firefighters will clìoose hose lines and extinguishment to ladders and other t~ pical truck procedures. Without strong officers, quad or quint apparatus ot~en are ineffect i’~ e as multipurpose coinpanies.
    The address belongs to the truck. Note in above photos that the engine companies have left the front of the structures open for each truck company to position effectively to access the roof.The address belongs to the truck. Note in above photos that the engine companies have left the front of the structures open for each truck company to position effectively to access the roof.In photo at left, however, the two first-arriving engine companies did not anticipate the need for an aerial device and prevented on effective truck spot. Remember, if you don't position apparatus correctly from the street, you won't get a second chance. Proper truck placement is dependent on your department's integrating proven fireground principles into SOPs—and adhering to them.Based on incident needs, it may be necessary for initial engine companies to give the best spot to an incoming truck company and pull additional lengths of hose to reach the objective. In this operation, the first-arriving engine company found a one-story commercial occupancy with fire showing through the roof. The engine spotted away from the building, allowing the later-arriving truck to spot in front and effectively use an elevated master stream when the operation went defensive.the first-in engines (exposure 1 side) responded from opposite directions. This has very obvious merits, including on expanded visual for initial size-up and an open street for other companies, particularly the less-maneuverable and larger truck apparatus.Uncommitted apparatus are staged away from the incident. Do not enter the fire block without a specific assignment from the incident commander.At this response, with no fire showing, Engine 29 has spotted away from the front and is conducting its investigation. Engine 229, at the very far left (background) of the photo, has stopped at the nearest intersection and hydrant. This opens the front of the structure and enhances the ability of E229 to bring water to the incident, if necessary. Truck 29 (the third-in company) has spotted to the four-story building, available for aboveground operations if necessary, and has left the street open for placement of E229.The incident commander (chief officer) has parked his vehicle (far left side of photo) on the sidewalk across the street from the incident, allowing apparatus to spot to the building.

    Quad or quint first on the scene, nothing showing: If later-arriving apparatus do not have an aerial and an aerial is not necessary, spot as an initial engine company. If an aerial is necessary, sprit so the aerial can be utilized. If an aerial is necessary and a later-arriving company can fulfill the function, spot as an initial engine company, but leave room for later-arriving aerial apparatus.

    Quad or quint first on the scene, fire showing: If later-arriving apparatus have an aerial and it is needed, spot as an initial engine company, leaving appropriate room for the aerial. If later-arriving apparatus do not have an aerial and an aerial is necessary, spot as a truck company, but operate as an initial engine company; this allows a quad or quint to provide an initial attack line for the fire and an aerial for use by later-arriving companies.

    Distance to objective. Several key factors affect the ability of an aerial to effectively reach an objective. They are setback. height of objective, length of aerial device, and presence of hazards.

    As the height of a building and the setback from a structure increase, so docs the required length of an aerial. Evaluating these two factors on the fireground takes practice; but in general, 75-foot aerials normally can reach the roof of a four-story building w ith a moderate set-back (a moderate set-back may be a sidewalk and a parked vehicle). However, if the set-back significantly increases (lawn, other apparatus, etc.) and/or a fiveor six-story building is encountered, a 75-foot aerial will not be adequate to reach the roof. Aerials of 100 feet or more normally can reach the roofs of sixto eight-story buildings, depending on the amount of set-back encountered. In all cases, the presence of hazards, such as power lines, must be considered and may negate the safe operation of any aerial.

    Maneuverability. Increased aerial capabilities of modem apparatus also have resulted in larger apparatus, which can make the spot even more difficult. Maneuverability (that is, turning radius) is dependent on the type of aerial apparatus (for example, tiller trucks, single-chassis truck w ith a single rear axle, single-chassis truck with tandem rear axles) and the space necessary to spot it.


    • If it is not necessary to position an aerial in front of a structure, the corners of a building offer certain advantages:
    • —The aerial device can reach two sides of a building. (Remember to maximize fireground flexibility.)

      —The corners of the building are the strong portions of a building and normally are out of the collapse danger zone.

      —Placing an aerial device to a corner normally will not place the device over horizontal openings such as windows; thus, from this position it can offer a safe exit from the roof without being exposed to fire blow ing out of windows.

      —By driving past a building and spotting to the far corner, company personnel will have seen three sides of a building and leave the front of the building open for other companies.

    • Aerial ladders should be positioned as perpendicular to an objective as possible. This allows both beams of the ladder to contact the objective and minimize potential ladder torsional stress. Correctly centering a ladder with an objective can be accomplished by aligning the center-line of a turntable with the center of an objective. Unfortunately, the increased size of modern apparatus and enclosed cabs have made this task more difficult for apparatus drivers. Unless a driver can consistently and correctly position a ladder with various types of objectives, teamwork and training are necessary to enhance this process as follows:

    Stop the apparatus short of the objective. Use a firefighter to quickly draw an imaginary centerline from the objective to a spot on the sidewalk and stand on that spot. As the aerial apparatus then slowly drives by the firefighter, the firefighter motions the driver to stop when the turntable centerline intersects the imaginary line (or the firefighter’s position). This process takes only a few seconds and results in a correct spot. Don’t let a poor spot become a problem for the duration of an incident.

    To exemplify the proper placement and use of first-in quad or quint apparatus, assume there is a reported problem on the roof of a three-story apartment. The first-arriving quad has placed an aerial to the roof and will conduct the initial investigation. The quad officer has directed the next-arriving company to position for potential handline attack.As another example, assume a working fire exists in interior portions of the structure. Roof ventilation will be needed. The first-arriving quint (3606) is positioned so the aerial can be used. With a staff of three, the engineer can raise the aerial to the roof, then provide water to the officer and firefighter, who have made the connection to the hydrant, have stretched an attack line to the doorway, and will advance the line into the building once it is charged. The next arriving company (3405) is instructed to accomplish vertical and horizontal ventilation.The quint has used the entire street width to spot for aerial use. Conditions and local geography may require that the aerial apparatus respond ahead of other apparatus and/or later-arriving companies respond from the opposite direction.Aerial apparatus can be placed on the outside of another apparatus when reaching the objective is not a problem.Leave enough space behind the truck company so portable ground ladders can be accessed.When positioned at the corner of a building, the aerial can reach two sides.Corner placement also protects members from fire extending out of horizontal openings.Defensive operations require respect for the collapse potential of the building.
    • Later-arriving apparatus should not park directly behind aerial apparatus due to the potential of blocking access to the ground ladders. Leave at least 25 feet.
    • Even if the aerial on a truck will not be used at an incident, try to position apparatus so the truck can park in close proximity to the incident. This enhances apparatus security and access to tools and equipment.
    • When viewing foreground pictures of defensive operations, it often appears that the closer apparatus can get to a building, the better! Remember, when defensive operations are called for, the building becomes a prime candidate for collapse. Common collapse zones are the sides and ends of a building, and collapsing walls can collapse at least the height of a wall. Therefore, defensive operations should place additional emphasis on safety of personnel and apparatus by placing apparatus in noncollapse zones and out of the smoke .

    Apparatus manufacturers have employee modem technology to the fire truck. Aeria devices are capable of extending well ove 100 feet. Some platforms carry a 1.000-lb load rating and have the capability of How ing 2.000 gpm. These apparatus are a vita fireground resource. Are you using these tools to their fullest advantage?

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